From the Fish River Canyon, Luderitz and Sossusvlei, our 2006 journey in the Land Rover through southern and central Namibia took us to the disconcertingly turn-of-the-century ‘little Bavaria’ of Swakopmund, on the coast. We camped on the beach, and did day trips north, towards the Skeleton Coast, and south, to Walvis Bay, with its flamingoes, bird life and salt factories, as well as inland, to the dunes.
Looking back at the photographs from our journey makes me think about the difference between travel and tourism: tourism, to my mind, is about going to distant places to shop, sightsee, and take selfies, while travel is about entering another place, history, landscape and culture.
In the one, the visitor careers through a foreign place in a bubble, all of her home assumptions intact; in the other, the visitor not only leaves home behind, but sees herself through a lens that others see her through: you go somewhere else to learn about your own cultural and other assumptions, just as you go to discover, respectfully, the worlds that others inhabit.
I use ‘respectfully’ to indicate that travel, at least as I see it, is not about gawping at ‘the other’ – it’s about expanding our understanding of what it means to be human.
With all of this in mind, here are three images. The first, ‘Welcome Visitors,’ was taken on the road heading north toward the Skeleton Coast: a fisherman’s retreat and bar. There was something about its isolation, the jaunty optimism of the ‘welcome visitors’ emblazoned in white paint on the tractor tyre, and the ramshackle modesty of the place in that wild and barren setting, that made, to my mind at least, for an unforgettable image.
The second, ‘Light and Sand’ is an image of the dunes inland from Swakopmund – as is the third, ‘Palm and Crypt.’ My wife says that ‘Light and Sand’ does nothing for her – but I beg to differ: it does something for me, as does the shot of the desert dunes, the palm, and the crypt. See what you think.